Saturday night brought the annual return of one of my favorite themes in the sports calendar – the impending death of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. It's really quite the phenomenon. Like clockwork, almost every All Star Saturday Night brings the call to finally put an end to an event that saw its prime a full generation ago. The NBA must really think the combination of no-name players, over-the-top gimmicks, and bricked dunks is supposed to equal the excitement of Jordan vs 'Nique, Dr. J, and Vince Carter because it's been the same tired formula for several years now. The 2013 version quickly threw its hat into the ring for that prestigious mantle of "Worst Dunk Contest EVER" on an evening when the dunk conversion rate plummeted to a shocking 30%.
But like the zombies that have populated popular culture, the Slam Dunk Contest keeps coming back for more and year after year we search for a way to kill it off once and for all. Sure there are some fleeting exceptions when Blake Griffin wows people by jumping over a Kia, but he might as well have jumped over a shark, too. *rimshot*
This year's "the dunk contest is dead" narrative is nothing new. We've been searching for ways to pull the plug for the last decade…
2013 – Wait… who's the guy that won it this year? I seriously have to look it up real quick… ah, ok, some guy named Terrence Ross. Wikipedia tells me he plays for the Raptors.
Dunk judges are giving out 10's like Pez. Is this a David Stern conspiracy to pump up the scores making it seem like the contest isn't dead?
— Damon Amendolara (@DAonCBS) February 17, 2013
How many years do we have to keep saying the dunk contest is dead before it actually dies?
— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) February 17, 2013
The dunk contest is completely dead now. It hasnt been any good since the early 2000's. Soo wack now and its not even remotely entertaining
— Alex Branstetter (@AlexBranstetter) February 17, 2013
The worst part is that every year everyone says the dunk contest is dead, but it keeps coming back.
— sarah sprague (@sarah_sprague) February 17, 2013
2012 – Jeremy Evans
SB Nation: "And however they do it, this much won't change: Until the NBA gets rid of the gimmicks and brings stars back, every single year will bring the same refrain of "the dunk contest is dead!" chants from fans and players alike. And they'll all be right; until someone brings it back to life."
Sekou Smith: "That “worst dunk contest ever” chatter seems a little strong, but the 2012 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest certainly exposed the fact that a serious tweaking of the format, namely the rules and regulations of the competition, is in order. No offense to the league’s new slam dunk king, baby-faced, human pogo-stick Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz, but not even his peers around the league were satisfied with the competition or the results.
Orlando Sentinel: Naysayers predicted that the Slam Dunk contest at All-Star Weekend this year would be a snoozer. They were right.
2010 – Nate Robinson
John Hollinger: Somehow, the league needs to restore the originality, creativity, and what-will-they-think-of-next wonder that the contest supplied for most of the past two decades. It was running on fumes the past few years, however, before the event's fuel tank hit E Saturday. Without some new ideas, it’s unlikely to last as Saturday’s signature event.
Hoop Doctors: In fact the dunk contest in general was more than just a tad boring. We realize that in and of itself having Nate Robinson ever win a contest with his small stature of only 5’9″ tall, let alone three, is quite exciting. And if you’re a regular reader of The Hoop Docs you’ll remember we complained last year because it was too gimmicky and lacked real substance in the dunks. Between all the Superman or Kryptonate outfits last year the best dunk we saw was Nate jumping over Superman which was only really impressive because of Nate’s lack of height. So it seems a bit odd that we are knocking the contest this year for being too boring with no gimmicks or props. But it was. And the ‘twitter effect’ agreed with us. I’ve never seen so many similar tweets as I did last night on my twitter account calling out the contest as ‘boring’, ‘stupid’, ‘waste of time’, etc.
2009 – Nate Robinson, who was overshadowed by LeBron James preliminarily committing to the 2010 Slam Dunk Contest. Yea about that…
AOL: Even Robinson seemed to know the score, telling Miller during his acceptance speech that he wasn't sure if he'd compete again next year. Having LeBron in the contest would be the best thing to happen to the NBA's All-Star Weekend in years, and if he wants to handpick the contestants, you have to believe the NBA will let him.
2006 – Nate Robinson… again
ESPN: The lunacy of the judging in Saturday's slamfest was the only low point in what was a generally well-received weekend. It consisted of two separate unthinkable happenings — first, that somebody would break Chris Andersen's record for missed dunk attempts, and second, that the same person somehow would win. Nate Robinson, however, proved truth can be stranger than fiction, requiring 15 tries to complete a slam in the "dunk-off" and still leaving with a trophy.
SI: Not to sound like one of those cranks who always talks about how things used to be so much better, but, man, the dunk contest used to be so much better. 'Nique, Jordan, Larry Nance — these guys were inspired jammers, and they made the event something you'd look forward to. Now, primarily because there are only so many ways you can dunk and they've all been done to death, we're left with Jonate Iguadarrick. It tells you all you need to know that the most memorable moment of the past couple of dunk contests came when Chris Andersen, doing his best to perpetuate the white-man-can't-jump stereotype, needed eight tries to finish off his last dunk. So what do we do about this? For starters, offer some serious incentives to get big names in the event. True, there aren't many dunks we haven't seen before, so it's going to be stale no matter what. But I'd much rather see LeBron and Kobe doing the boilerplate jamming. Failing that, why not make it a contest? Make it like HORSE and have people match each others dunks. Or better yet, just eliminate the whole thing and replace it with a HORSE contest. Who wouldn't want to see that?
2005 – Josh Smith wins, but Chris Andersen misses 800 dunks and brings the world to its knees
Simmons: That was actually the first time in my life that I've seen something spectacular in person, only I wished I was watching it at home on TV — with the announcers' and players' reactions — because I knew it was 10 times more spectacular for everyone at home. Looking back, I think the best part was that he started off the contest by telling the sideline reporter, "It's time for the Birdman to fly." Could somebody find me a time machine so I could travel back to the '80s and make that my high school yearbook quote?
2004 – Fred Jones
AP: Indiana’s Fred Jones won the NBA dunk contest practically by default on Saturday night, dethroning two-time champion Jason Richardson when both missed their final jams. It was hardly a Hollywood ending for Jones, a Pacers reserve competing in his first dunk contest after initially declining an invitation because he wanted a vacation on All-Star weekend instead.
2001 – Desmond Mason
SI: This was why they canceled the Slam Dunk Contest in the first place. Seattle SuperSonics rookie Desmond Mason avoided embarrassment to win the worst Slam Dunk Contest in the 16-year history of the event as All-Star Saturday ended with a whimper. Mason emerged from a field of six no-names that got itself in a jam with jams that missed in every way imaginable, including an airball. The oldest player in the field at 23, Mason botched a pair of dunks in the final round and still won rather easily.
"That was the worst feeling ever," Mason said of his misses. "You go up there and you've got all these people screaming at you and you've got players on the sideline trying to pump you up. And then you miss a dunk — that takes a little bit out of you."
Repeated lackluster events forced the NBA to eliminate the Slam Dunk Contest after Kobe Bryant won in 1997. It was replaced by 2ball in 1998 and there were no festivities because of the lockout in 1999.
And back to 2013, are there cries to go back to 1998 and cancel the Slam Dunk Contest once again?
In a word, yes.
Where do I text to cancel next year's dunk contest?
— Drew Davis (@drewdavis71) February 17, 2013
Cancel the dunk contest forever @nba
— Everything I'm Not (@No_Cut_Card) February 17, 2013
Alright, just cancel that dunk contest already.
— Kam Pashai (@KamPashai) February 17, 2013
Hey @nba do us all a favor and cancel the dunk contest next year
— Willo(@mysneakerheads) February 17, 2013
Amazing how far the dunk contest has come in the last 12 years. The solution is simple – All Star Saturday Night Slamball. Make it happen, NBA.